Can we make melee serve a purpose? I mean, let’s be serious, there isn’t one (in game) for melee. I feel like it was a token addition that was done more or less out of habit/ritual than having any real significance to a solid gameplay experience.
Let me start by saying that I am a fan of melee. That I prefer it over any and all forms of ranged combat/interaction. I should say that I REALLY wish melee was more useful and that I do recognize that it deals, generally, more damage and has more powerful abilities than non-melee.
That stated, we all know what happens if you place more than a couple of melee units down on virtually any map. The flying wave comes. Suddenly, your melee unit, even with a million gold, hacks to make it deal damage larger than the U.S deficit, and abilities beyond the scope the game designer could have imagined, is useless.
He stands there and watches the archer and mage attempt to cover his slack. At wave 7 or 8, every single melee unit and upgrade invested into one is power taken DIRECTLY from your ranged units. Some might argue that the lower damage deal by ranged units creates an inverse in this perception but this is not true.
I could spend 300 gold on melee units and then only 100 on ranged and be in a dangerous, very difficult situation.
I could spend 300 gold on ranged units and an additional 100 gold on ranged units and be fine regardless of what is sent at me. Anyone who has actually PLAYED the game knows this from experience. Ranged units can win maps by themselves without ever having a melee unit played by their side.
The same cannot be said about melee units.
Furthermore, ranged units, while dealing less damage, deal that damage all the time to everything, wave after wave until the game is over. Melee units deal their damage some of their time to some things on some waves, but not wave after wave, until the game is over. What this means in actuality is that the moderately less powerful ranged unit will constantly and consistently gain levels. It’s reliable. It will level for sure, where your melee unit will be guaranteed not to. It will catch up at these moments and then use the additional power to compete with the melee units once those units finally have an opportunity to do something. There is little to no risk in playing a magic or archer unit. But no one can doubt (unless they are mentally not sound) that there is inherent risk in playing a melee unit, for every melee unit played, each and every single time you play one. The risk is that it will do nothing- at all.
Melee units do just fine against ground forces without any serious boosts. Thereby, with skills that improve a melee units damage or capabilities while not addressing their general uselessness, it stands to reason that hero and character investment into anything that enhances melee performance is typically going to be a wasted and poor investment.
I hope that I have made my case clear. For a final example, consider the posts about winning the game with a single hero using a single unit. I will promise you all this: Not one of them did it with a melee unit.
Now that we understand that melee IS bad and WHY it is bad, here are some thoughts on making it matter in a game where it clearly doesn’t.
As a game designer myself, I figure these are some worthy suggestions that wouldn’t be difficult to code.
Ranged(Physical): Units deal low-average damage. Some unit types receive skills to increase damage to air or ground units. Some unit types receive skills to deal splash damage or provide elemental effects (physical archer can deal fire damage with fire arrows skill tree from leveling up). This provides variety and limitations. A main point of these skills is that they never get powerful, just useful. Rather than increasing damage with each level up, attack speed, or new, logical extensions of the starting point of the tree would surface. ie, fire arrows give element fire then become fireflash arrows, with a chance to stun, the ultimate being an AoE fire arrow attack which would mostly deal the average ranged damage to a group. Not tremendous ranged damage.
Magic: Units deal the lowest damage in the game, oftentimes inconsequential damage. Entirely based on skills. Skills received have tremendous power but long cool downs. Mages would have a very slow attack speed but when they finally do attack, the effects should be noticeable but VERY specific. Examples include summoning monsters that move along with enemy waves and attack the enemies. Or move against the waves. AoE teleportation of monsters (very long cooldown), multi hit high damage attack (think chain lightning from Dungeons and Dragons), Poison- that grows into an AoE rapid HP loss poison.
Melee: Units function similar to the way they currently do except that on some units some skill trees allow for aura’s and potential ranged attacks. Example: Land Mine- Unit can set a land mine trap. Next it can throw grenades which hit flyers and have a small AoE. Finally, rocket launcher. High damage single strike to any target at long range but at the increasing cost of longer and longer cool downs. Example 2: Commanders aura- The unit allows all units adjacent to it to deal a bonus % of damage. Next, more units are included and can attack faster. Finally, even more units are included and deal additional damage and have cool downs reduced even more.
If only certain heroes from certain factions had these and these units were tweaked for balance and faction relations influenced whether a hero would stay with you or not and whether you could get a hero or not, melee would be useful, if not needed as ALL unit types would rapidly find themselves needed to work together on many more maps. Also, a format for the waves would be great. When wave 1-9 is flying and wave 10, 11 and 12 are melee, then the rest are flying, in the current format you just pick all ranged/magic units…
With my above-listed ideas you pretty much still pick all ranged/magic units. Generally, that would be considered a bad format and with my ideas, that would be a bad map (because your archers and mages are gonna have trouble killing the ground units with their noticeably lower damage and weaker abilities and/or really long cool downs).
Sorry for the long post but I was growing so incredibly frustrated by playing a ranged TD game that happened to have some melee units thrown in that I realized I was wasting time being frustrated and could be more productive by providing my criticism in a format that is positive and hopefully, enlightening.
While I am at it, could we get more unique short stories for the quests rather than rotating between the same small handfuls for every faction? It makes a potentially great game feel cheapened by such an obvious repetition of a small amount of content.
Hope this finds you in good spirits and with an open mind. I’ll look for your e-mail to send this to your inbox, as well. Later.